Workforce Diversity Project

Download PDF


As the Portland-metro area becomes more and more diverse, it will be increasingly necessary to identify and address barriers to job access for a changing population. More people in diverse communities, including English Language Learners (ELL), need access to good paying jobs and employers need more options to recruit a range of talent locally, bringing globally competitive advantages to their businesses.  

In 2014, Partners in Diversity and the Portland Business Alliance joined forces to create the Workforce Diversity Project (WDP) - a three-year grant-funded endeavor that sought to understand how qualified, diverse workers could better connect to businesses that need a strong labor supply for manufacturing, healthcare and other skilled trades jobs - jobs that pay a living wage.

Summary of Findings

The results of this project reveal unique insight on how Portland-metro area employers can more successfully diversify their workforce and gain a competitive advantage with multicultural talent that exists in this community and better reflects a changing global customer base. 

Some of the key findings show that:
  • Traditional methods of recruiting talent do not work when reaching communities of color or English Language Learners. Members of those communities do not know where to look for jobs even though there are many workforce development organizations in the Portland area. Recruiters must increase their community involvement in order to have success.
  • Immigrants and refugees to the United States who have advanced degrees from foreign universities need stronger pathways to find work in their fields. Many are working in unskilled, low-wage jobs when their education and experience could be better leveraged as a competitive advantage for businesses.
  • Language barriers during the recruiting stage and throughout employment need to be addressed. Workers who can communicate easily with recruiters, coworkers and supervisors can better understand job expectations and contribute to a company’s culture.  


Steering Committee

Michael Alexander
Urban League of Portland
Ben Berry
Bonneville Power Administration
Michael Burch
Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters
Nancy Cesaro
Columbia Sportswear
Tony DeFalco
Tim Frew
Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council
Andy Friedman
Worksystems, Inc.
Nkenge Harmon Johnson
Urban League or Portland
Marion Haynes
Portland Business Alliance
Dwayne Johnson
PDXO/Globe Three Venture
Richelle Luther
Columbia Sportswear
Andrew McGough
Worksystems, Inc.
Kelsey Miller
DWFritz Automation
James Morris
Oregon Commission on Black Affairs
Sheila Murty
Oregon Community Foundation
Willy Myers
Columbia Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council
Andy Nelson
Impact NW
Maurice Rahming
O’Neill Electric, Inc.
Elizabeth Sato
Warm Springs Tribes
Mari Watanabe
Partners in Diversity
Grant Yoshihara
NW Natural


Oregon Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs
Oregon Commission on Black Affairs
Portland HR Management Association
Portland Business Alliance
Portland State University
WorkSystems, Inc.


Meyer Memorial Trust
Oregon Business Council
Oregon Community Foundation
Portland Business Alliance